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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 9 July 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

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Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Equalisation levy on foreign e-com firms.

2. Criminal law reforms.

3. Indian trawlers in Sri Lanka and issues associated.

4. UAE keen on open-sky policy with India.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Agriculture Infrastructure Fund.

2. Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

3. Production of lithium in stars.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Equalisation levy on foreign e-com firms

The government has said that it is not considering extending the deadline for payment of Equalisation Levy by non-resident e-commerce players.

What is Equalisation levy?

Equalisation levy at 6% has been in force since 2016 on payment exceeding Rs 1 lakh a year to a non-resident service provider for online advertisements.

  • The amendments to the Finance Act, 2020 had expanded the ambit of the equalisation levy for non-resident e-commerce operators involved in supply of services, including online sale of goods and provision of services, with the levy at the rate of 2% effective April 1, 2020.
  • The tax applies on e-commerce transactions on websites such as Amazon.com.

What was the need for equalisation levy?

The levy is seen aimed at taxing foreign companies which have a significant local client base in India but were billing them through their offshore units, effectively escaping the country’s tax system.

Penalty:

  • As per law, late-payment would attract interest at the rate of 1% per month or part of the month.
  • Non-payment could result in a penalty equal to the amount of equalisation levy, along with interest.

What are the issues now?

Tax experts point out that there are practical difficulties in getting PAN and many companies are not paying the equalisation levy as there is still considerable confusion and lack of clarity on the applicability of the same.

  • It is believed that the requirement of having a PAN and an Indian bank account could cause administrative delays in remittance by non-residents.

The levy has several issues that primarily include wide coverage (even non-e-commerce companies could be covered), lack of clarity on how consideration needs to be determined especially in cases where the income is minuscule compared to the transactions facilitated by the non-resident e-commerce operators.

  • Even transactions between non-residents are covered and this according to tax experts would be an extraterritorial overreach along with practical difficulty in implementation.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Equalisation levy- when was it introduced, recent changes?
  2. Who is covered?
  3. Is it a direct tax?
  4. CBDT- composition.

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for and significance of equalisation levy.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

Criminal law reforms

A group of retired judges, former bureaucrats and others have written to the newly constituted Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws, questioning the lack of diversity in the committee and asking for more transparency in its functioning.

Background:

This committee was first announced by home minister Amit Shah in parliament in December 2019.

  • The panel would look into required amendments to the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to deal with the issue of mob lynching.

The Committee was constituted through a Ministry of Home Affairs notification on May 4, 2020. The chairperson is Ranbir Singh (vice-chancellor, National Law University Delhi).

What’s the issue?

The line-up of Committee’s members “lacks diversity, both in terms of the social identity of the members, as well as their professional background and experience.”

Unlike previous committees that had been assigned reforms of such magnitude, this one did not even have full-time members.

What needs to be done?

Include more expertise and diversity. Create sub-committees with outside experts and other consultants with established track records in the field of criminal justice who can redress the lack of diversity and experience in the Committee’s current composition.

  • The committee should include “eminent women, Dalit, Adivasi and various religious minorities, LGBT, differently-abled criminal law practitioners and grassroots workers from different parts of India”.

The committee should make public the MHA notification constituting it. It should also upload on its website the terms of reference. The committee should clarify whether or not it is working independently of the MHA.

The committee should engage with a wide range of stakeholders in the criminal justice system in a meaningful, substantive, and transparent manner.

Background:

The Criminal law in India is contained in a number of sources – The Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Criminal Justice System can impose penalties on those who violate the established laws.

  • The criminal law and criminal procedure are in the concurrent list of the seventh schedule of the constitution.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay is said to be the chief architect of codifications of criminal laws in India.

Need for reforms:

  • Colonial era laws.
  • ineffectiveness.
  • Pendency of cases.
  • Huge undertrials.

Previous committees:

Madhav Menon Committee: It submitted its report in 2007, suggesting various recommendations on reforms in the Criminal Justice System of India (CJSI).

Malimath Committee Report: It submitted its report in 2003 on the Criminal Justice System of India (CJSI).

vsmallmath

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Malimath Committee is associated with?
  2. Criminal law under 7th schedule of the constitution.
  3. Who codified criminal laws in India?
  4. Controversial IPC laws.
  5. Ranbir Singh Committee was recently constituted for?

Mains Link:

Write a note on criminal justice reforms in India.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Indian trawlers in Sri Lanka and issues associated

Sri Lanka’s Fishermen along the northern coast of Jaffna Peninsula, especially Point Pedro, have complained to northern Fisheries authorities about their nets being found damaged in the sea, after being caught under the large Indian trawlers that were reportedly in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

What’s the issue?

The Indo-Lanka fisheries conflict became a strain on the countries’ bilateral ties, with talks at the highest levels and among fisher leaders on both sides proving futile for years.

  • Main Arguments put forth by Sri Lankan fishermen are that Indian trawlers hamper their fish production and the marine habitat – scooping out marine organisms, including fishes and prawns.
  • Furthermore, their livelihoods, now under strain due to the coronavirus pandemic that has impaired exports, would be further hit by the Indian trawlers.

How Sri Lankan government is handling the situation?

In the last couple of years, Sri Lanka introduced tougher laws banning bottom-trawling, and heavy fines for trespassing foreign vessels.

  • The Sri Lankan Navy arrested over 450 Indian fishermen in 2017 and 156 in 2018 on charges of poaching.
  • A total of 210 arrests were made in 2019, while 34 have been made so far in 2020.

What is bottom trawling?

Bottom trawling is a destructive fishing practice which affects the marine ecosystem. The practice, which involves trawlers dragging weighted nets along the sea floor, is known to cause great depletion of fishery resources, and curbing it is in the interest of sustainable fishing.

bottom_trawling

India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary agreements:

Both countries signed four maritime boundary agreements between 1974 and 1976 to define the international maritime boundary between them. This was done to facilitate law enforcement and resource management in the waters since both countries are located closely in the Indian Ocean, particularly in Palk Strait.

  1. The first agreement was regarding the maritime boundary between Adam’s Bridge and the Palk Strait. It came into force on July 8, 1974.
  2. The second agreement came into force on May 10, 1976, and it defined the maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal.
  3. India, Sri Lanka and Maldives signed an agreement for determination of the tri-junction point in the Gulf of Mannar in July 1976.
  4. In November 1976, India and Sri Lanka signed another agreement to extend the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mannar.

srilanka

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Palm strait.
  2. Adam’s bridge.
  3. Gulf of Mannar- significance and biodiversity.
  4. Countries in the Indian Ocean Region.
  5. Where is Point Pedro?

Mains Link:

What is bottom trawling? How it affects the biodiversity of oceans?

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

UAE keen on open-sky policy with India

The United Arab Emirates has said that it is keen to have an open-sky agreement with India.

It asked India to look at Open-sky policy separately from fifth and sixth freedoms (of air).

  • The issue of fifth and sixth freedoms of air has been a sore point between airlines in India and the UAE.

What is Open Sky policy?

The agreement will not only encourage connectivity and passenger travel between the two countries, but will also result in reduction in airfares on these routes.

  • The National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016, allows the government to enter into an ‘open sky’ air services agreement on a reciprocal basis with SAARCnations as well as countries beyond a 5,000 kilometre radius from New Delhi.
  • It implies that nations within this distance need to enter into a bilateral agreement and mutually determine the number of flights that their airlines can operate between the two countries.

India has already signed open sky agreements with Greece, Jamaica, Guyana, Czech Republic, Finland, Spain and Sri Lanka.

Freedoms of air:

International air travel is governed by various freedoms of air.

The degree of “sky openness” depends on the freedoms of the air in the country granted to foreign airlines. There are 9 such freedoms according to the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation.

Importantly,

  1. First freedom of air allows a carrier to take off from its home state.
  2. Second freedom of air allows it to land in a second country.
  3. Third and fourth freedoms of air allow the airline to take off from the country it has landed in and come back to land at its home base.
  4. The fifth and sixth freedoms allow airlines to carry passengers picked from one country and fly them to a third country rather than the country from which the airline originated.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Open Sky policy?
  2. SAARC nations.
  3. Overview of National Civil Aviation policy, 2016.
  4. 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation.
  5. Freedoms of air.

Mains Link:

What is open sky policy? Discuss its significance.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

Agriculture Infrastructure Fund launched

It is a new pan India Central Sector Scheme.

  • The scheme shall provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.
  • The duration of the Scheme shall be from FY2020 to FY2029 (10 years).

Eligibility:

Under the scheme, Rs. One Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Marketing Cooperative Societies, FPOs, SHGs, Farmers, Joint Liability Groups (JLG), Multipurpose Cooperative Societies, Startups etc.

Interest subvention:

All loans under this financing facility will have interest subvention of 3% per annum up to a limit of Rs. 2 crore. This subvention will be available for a maximum period of seven years.

Credit guarantee:

  • Credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from this financing facility under Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan up to Rs. 2 crore.
    • The fee for this coverage will be paid by the Government.
  • In case of FPOs the credit guarantee may be availed from the facility created under FPO promotion scheme of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DACFW).

Management of the fund:

  • It will be managed and monitored through an online Management Information System (MIS) platform.
  • The National, State and District level Monitoring Committees will be set up to ensure real-time monitoring and effective feed-back.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are FPOs?
  2. What are Cooperatives? Constitutional provisions.
  3. About CGTMSE.
  4. Central sector vs Centrally sponsored schemes.
  5. Core vs core of core schemes.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Money laundering related issues.

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)

Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has constituted an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of PMLA, Income Tax Act, FCRA etc. by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust & Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.

What’s the issue?

As per the MHA website, both the RGF and the RGCT are registered FCRA associations, a pre-requisite for NGOs and other associations to receive foreign donations. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust is not a FCRA registered association.

All these NGOs have been receiving donations.

What to learn from this article?

Political statements are not important. But, it’s important to know the key provisions of FCRA and how NGOs in India are registered, administered and become eligible to receive foreign donations.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010:

Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.

As per the amended FCRA rules, all NGOs registered or granted prior permission under FCRA are now required to upload details of foreign contributions received and utilized by them every three months on their website or the FCRA website.

  • NGOs now need to file their annual returns online, with the hard copy version dispensed with. The annual returns must be placed quarterly on the NGO’s website or the FCRA website maintained by the home ministry.

Who can accept Foreign Contribution?

A person having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme can accept foreign contribution after getting registration or prior permission from the Central Government.

Who cannot accept Foreign Contribution?

  1. Election candidate
  2. Member of any legislature (MP and MLAs)
  3. Political party or office bearer thereof
  4. Organization of a political nature
  5. Correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publishers of a registered Newspaper.
  6. Judge, government servant or employee of any corporation or any other body controlled on owned by the Government.
  7. Association or company engaged in the production or broadcast of audio news, audio visual news or current affairs programmes through any electronic mode
  8. Any other individuals or associations who have been specifically prohibited by the Central Government

What is the eligibility criteria for grant of registration?

The Association:

  • must be registered (under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or Indian Trusts Act 1882 or section 8 of Companies Act, 2013 etc.)
  • normally be in existence for at least 3 years.
  • has undertaken reasonable activity in its field for the benefit of the society.
  • Has spent at least Rs.10,00,000/- (Rs. ten lakh) over the last three years on its activities.

What is ‘public interest’?

The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India.

It prohibits receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”. 

  • The Act specifies that NGOs require the government’s permission to receive funding from abroad.
  • The government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”.

This condition is manifestly overbroad. There is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.

Definition of foreign contribution:

It defines the term ‘foreign contribution’ to include currency, article other than gift for personal use and securities received from foreign source. While foreign hospitality refers to any offer from a foreign source to provide foreign travel, boarding, lodging, transportation or medical treatment cost.

person_includes

Background:

In 2019 alone, more than 1,800 NGOs lost their licence to receive foreign funding.

What needs to be done now?

  1. A National Accreditation Councilconsisting of academicians, activist, retired bureaucrats should be made to ensure compliance by NGOs.
  2. There should be better coordination between Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance in terms of monitoring and regulating illicit and unaccounted funds.
  3. regulatory mechanism to keep a watch on the financial activities of NGOs and voluntary organizationsis the need of the hour.
  4. Citizens today are keen to play an active role in processes that shape their lives and it is important that their participation in democracy go beyond the ritual of voting and should include promotion of social justice, gender equity, inclusion etc.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

Production of lithium in stars

A forty-year-old puzzle regarding the production of lithium in stars has been solved by Indian researchers.

What was the puzzle all about?

Stars, as per known mechanisms of evolution, actually destroy lithium as they evolve into red giants. Planets were known to have more lithium than their stars — as is the case with the Earth-Sun pair.

However, leading to a contradiction, some stars were found that were lithium-rich. 

  • This posed a puzzle — if stars do not produce lithium, how do some stars develop to become lithium rich?

So far, the planet engulfment theory was quite popular. For example, Earth-like planets may increase the star’s lithium content when they plunge into their star’s atmosphere when the latter become Red Giants.

Latest findings:

When stars grow beyond their Red Giant stage into what is known as the Red Clump stage, they produce lithium in what is known as a Helium Flash and this is what enriches them with lithium.

The study also challenges the present understanding of nucleosynthesis in stars.

What is the big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN)?

The Big Bang Nucleosynthesis theory predicts that roughly 25% the mass of the Universe consists of Helium. It also predicts about 0.01% deuterium, and even smaller quantities of lithium.

  • It is the production of nuclei other than those of the lightest isotope of hydrogen during the early phases of the Universe. Primordial nucleosynthesisis believed by most cosmologists to have taken place in the interval from roughly 10 seconds to 20 minutes after the Big Bang.

Origin of Lithium:

It was first produced in the Big Bang, around 13.7 billion years ago when the universe came into being, along with other elements.

While the abundance of other elements grew millions of times, the present abundance of lithium in the universe is only four times the original [Big Bang] value.

It is actually destroyed in the stars.

  • The Sun, for instance, has about a factor of 100 lower amount of lithium than the Earth.

Lithium

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Lithium.
  2. Different stages in the evolution of a star.
  3. What is big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN)?
  4. What is a helium flash?

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Insights Current Affairs Analysis (ICAN) by IAS Topper

 


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